One of my Sons recently visited Montreal in Canada on a business trip and reported back favourably on “The history of ships” exhibition which was being hosted in the Old Port of Montreal buildings.
This led me to research some of the more fascinating facts about the port which – I’m sad to say – I never visited during my 11 year deep sea career.
A centrepiece of the exhibition was a wonderful model of the RMS Andania, a vessel I had never previously heard of. Not surprisingly, for a vessel of its era (built in 1913) it was constructed at a shipyard on the River Clyde in Scotland – Scott’s of Greenock. Its maiden voyage took it from Liverpool to Montreal but in short time it was requisitioned for World War One efforts and saw service in the tragic Gallipoli campaign before being torpedoed off the coast of Northern Ireland in 1918.
Scottish influence was prominent in Montreal even before this “Clyde-built” ship visited, with the construction of the Lachine Canal in the 1820s. A number of Scots were involved in the project to create the canal (to bypass some treacherous river rapids upstream from the port), among them John Richardson who hailed from Portsoy, a small fishing village in the county of Banffshire in the North East of Scotland – not very far away from where I grew up.
Montreal’s strategic position on the St Lawrence seaway – 1,000 miles inland from the Atlantic – has led to its position as a major inter-modal hub serving Toronto and Central Canada as well as the US Mid-West and North East. It has a rich heritage as one of the largest grain ports in the world, and has made the transition from its former location in Old Montreal to new facilities further downstream. The port authority ceded the old port area in the late 1970s to a public corporation, allowing the creation of leisure, entertainment and recreation facilities in some of the impressive buildings on the old wharves.